Santa Anita Park is a mess. The racetrack has been one of the major horseracing venues in the US for the last 85 years. Today, it is shut down while officials there try to determine why 21 horses have died there since about Christmas 2018. The problem is not some equine virus that is spreading among the resident animals; the problem is the main dirt track where horses are breaking legs, ankles etc. such that the animals have to be euthanized.
All racing has been canceled at Santa Anita. There had been some restrictions on racing and workouts recently and the track was preparing to get back to normal after an inspection of the track and some analyses had been done. Then a 4-year old filly was “breezing” in a morning workout when she “sustained fractured seismoids” and had to be put down raising the number of horses in that condition to 21 in the last 10 weeks. Those circumstances – a breezing workout for a mature horse – are not normally associated with fatal injuries.
The weather in southern California has been very unusual this winter. The track received 11.5 inches of rain in February alone; normal rainfall for February is 3.74 inches. In fact, in February of this year, the track got more than half of the average annual rainfall for that part of the world. In addition, February saw abnormally low temperatures. It is tempting to blame the climatological conditions there for these problems except for the fact that no rational linkage has been found.
The track had closed briefly at the end of February to allow for an evaluation by a consultant from the University of Kentucky whose specialty is racing surfaces. He took soil samples at varying depths and did not find any flaws in the track composition, so training resumed. Then came the death of the filly in a training session and the track shut down completely.
This is a situation that needs fixing quickly and reliably. Santa Anita is not some rinky-dink track in suburban Beaglebreath, WY. Santa Anita is slated to host the Breeders’ Cup races this November. There is no way the owners of the horses who are eligible to compete at that level of racing are going to put their assets at risk on a racing surface that averages 2 deaths per week.
Maybe space aliens are beaming some sort of disruption ray at the southern California area because in addition to Santa Anita Park being a mess, the LA Lakers are also a mess. Last summer when LeBron James took his talents to LA, most folks thought that the Lakers would return to the playoffs after a lengthy – for them – absence. Only the biggest Lakers’ fanboys thought that they might make it to the NBA Finals this year, but a slot in the playoffs appeared to be in the bag.
As of this morning, the Lakers are in 11th place in the Western Conference; they are 6.5 games behind the LA Clippers who are sitting in the 8th and final playoff slot. The Lakers have 17 games left in the regular season; making up that margin is not impossible – – but it sure does not look likely.
IF the Lakers miss the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what sort of analysis comes out of that circumstance. Here are some possible threads:
- LeBron James has been in the NBA Finals for 8 consecutive seasons and a couple of those teams did not feature strong supporting casts for the best player on the planet today. Ergo, this young group of Lakers must be a lot less than they were cracked up to be.
- LeBron James creates drama wherever he goes. This young Lakers’ team could not handle the drama – – see how they fell apart right after the abortive attempts to trade for Anthony Davis engineered not by LeBron James but by LeBron James’ agent.
- LeBron James is a coach-killer except he could not get the Lakers’ owner to fire Luke Walton this year and so he did not put his full energy into the team this season.
- LeBron James has begun to feel the presence of Father Time. His stats are still exemplary, but he missed 17 games this season due to injury and he no longer plays 40+ minutes every night and he plays even less defense than he has in recent years.
At the moment, I would lean toward the second thread above. LeBron James has offered up plenty of passive-aggressive commentary about his teammates and coaches in the past and those comments have gotten former teammates to shape up lest they be the target of some upcoming passive-aggressive verbiage. It appears that this Lakers’ roster has not reacted in the same way; this team plays as if they are afraid to hear what is coming next.
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about a former Lakers’ superstar’s current situation:
“Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken Shaq restaurant has unveiled an $8.29 Charles Barkley sandwich.
“OK, we’ll bite: It’s a healthy slice of ham on huge buns?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………